Maud Newton has written personal essays, cultural and literary criticism, and fiction, and is currently writing a book about the science and superstition of ancestry for Random House. Her essay on “America’s Ancestry Craze” was the cover story of the June 2014 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

Newton’s work has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Narrative, the New York Times Book ReviewGranta, Bookforum, the Awl, Longreads, Tin House, the Oxford American, Humanities, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Paris Review Daily and many other publications and anthologies, including the New York Times Bestseller, What My Mother Gave Me.

She received the Narrative Prize for “When the Flock Changed,” an excerpt from a novel-in-progress. Her personal essay, “Conversations You Have at Twenty,” won second prize in Narrative’s Love Story Contest and was anthologized in Love is a Four-Letter Word. She was awarded City College’s Irwin and Alice Stark Short Fiction Prize for “Regarding the Insurance Defense Attorney.” Her fiction and essays have been praised by Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, the New Yorker online, Elle, the New York Times, the Paris Review online, and others.

She has discussed ancestry with Leonard Lopate, the Dallas Morning News, KERA’s Think, Slate/Future Tense, Wisconsin Public Radio, and PEN. Her Family Tree column for Tin House’s Open Bar is a series of brief but wide-ranging interviews with writers on their family history. The Begats is her clipboard for ancestry miscellany as she works on her latest project, and an outgrowth of her old Weekend Ancestry posts. She will be speaking in June 2015 at A.J. Jacobs’ Global Family Reunion.


Newton was born in Dallas, to a Texan mother and a southern father. At two, she moved to Miami, Florida, where she was often mistaken for a tourist because of her Scottish shut-in complexion. She attended the University of Florida, where she studied writing with Padgett Powell and Harry Crews, and then, for lack of a better plan, she went to law school. Now a resident of Brooklyn, she has worked for more than a decade as an editor and writer for (a legal publishing division of) Thomson Reuters.

She started blogging in May 2002 with the aim of finding others who were passionate about books, culture, and politics, and to establish an informal place to write about her life and family. Within a few years, her site had been praised, criticized, and quoted in the New York Times Book Review, Forbes, New York Magazine, the Washington Post, the London Times, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, the New York Times, the The Guardian, the Telegraph, the The Wall Street Journal, the New York Daily News, Poets & Writers Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, the New Yorker, Book Magazine, London’s Evening Standard, the The Scotsman, Slate, the Denver Post, Canada’s National Post, and many other publications. She has appeared on BookTV, Talk of the Nation, KERA’s Think, Wisconsin Public Radio, and Radio Open Source.

She served on the Board of Girls Write Now, a nonprofit organization that pairs professional mentors with at-risk teen girls, and assisted in the creation of its Chapters reading series. She remains an ardent supporter.

Newton blogs far less frequently nowadays, but still occasionally posts here. You can also follow her on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram.

Her agent is Julie Barer of The Book Group. Maud is a nickname.

Photographer: Stephanie Keith